The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the federal agency responsible for weather predictions, ocean science, and climate research, has been threatened with major budget cuts by the Trump administration over the last year. But it got a nice chunk of funding today (Feb. 9) when Trump signed a stopgap government spending deal passed by Congress.
The spending deal is intended to keep the government running until March. It includes various special sections, like one devoted to disaster relief for the three devastating hurricanes that struck the US last year.
Within that special hurricane relief section, NOAA was allocated some serious money for its core science priorities. These funds are not part of NOAA’s overall budget for 2019, which will come out later.
NOAA receives funding for the things typical of disaster relief that fall under its purview—$200 million to mitigate “fisheries disasters” caused by the storms, $18 million for marine debris removal, and money to repair their instruments and federal property damaged in the storms.
But also included in the spending bill are are funds for the agency to get better weather satellites, improve hurricane intensity forecasting, and enhance their supercomputing infrastructure. John Culberson, the Republican congressman who runs the appropriations process in the US House of Representatives where the bill originated, is from Houston. The city was badly hit by Hurricane Harvey in August.
Here are those line items from the hurricane disaster section of “Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018”:
- $50,000,000 for “improvements to operational and research weather supercomputing infrastructure and for improvement of satellite ground services used in hurricane intensity and track prediction,”
- $29,232,000 for “repair and replacement of Federal real property and observing assets,”
- $12,904,000 for “repair and replacement of observing assets, Federal real property, and equipment,”
- $40,000,000 for “mapping, charting, and geodesy services,”1
- $50,000,000 to “improve weather forecasting, hurricane intensity forecasting and flood forecasting and mitigation capabilities, including data assimilation from ocean observing platforms and satellites.”
The president’s original budget proposal for 2018 called for a 17% cut to the NOAA budget, along with a 6% cut for the National Weather Service, the agency under NOAA responsible for gathering and analyzing virtually all the US’s weather forecast data. After Hurricanes Harvey and Irma barreled into the US, the Verge noted that NOAA and the National Weather Service were agencies that provided advance notice of the seriousness of the storms, and when they would hit.